As Matt Reeves’s Let Me In arrives in theaters this weekend, it seemed like an appropriate occasion to dust off the Internet and put together a list of American reinterpretations of foreign-language films. Because Reeves’s film is a highly anticipated (and to some, highly pointless) remake of the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, however, we elected to focus primarily on titles born in Scandinavia, which has become a particularly fertile source for filmmaking material thanks to both this and the forthcoming remake of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Interestingly, we recently discovered that Scandinavia officially includes only three countries – Denmark, Sweden and Norway – as opposed to any territory that sells the delicious candy Swedish Fish, as we previously thought. While we reapply for that cartographer’s license that we never understood why we were denied, check out a list of eight films past, present and future which took their inspirations from the films of Scandinavia.
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Enlisting Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and his The Social Network co-star Rooney Mara, director David Fincher is currently in production on his version of Stieg Larson’s hugely successful series of novels, which were produced in Larson’s native Sweden just last year. While little is yet known about Fincher’s take on the material, we’re fairly confident that the director of Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac can make an effective film about an odd-couple team of mystery-solvers who frequently find themselves in incredibly violent situations.
Let Me In (2010) The raison d’etre for this list, Reeves’ film shockingly reimagines Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 Let the Right One In in English, but omits what might be the scariest thing about it—the subtitles. For better or worse, Reeves changes precious little in his version, although he spells out a few things a little more clearly that were rewardingly ambiguous in Alfredson’s movie. But as a carbon copy of a foreign film made to capitalize on a popular new trend – searing, melancholy portraits of nerdy pre-teens– Let Me In is mostly as creepy and compelling as the original.
Insomnia (2002) Before Christopher Nolan was the guy who made two totally awesome Batman movies and Inception, one of the most inventive films of the decade, he remade Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Norwegian nail-biter about a Swedish cop trying to get himself out of trouble while investigating the murder of a young girl by someone else. Pacino steps in as the cop while Robin Williams offers a chillingly understated performance as the prime suspect, and the two of them engage in a fascinating battle of wills that only occasionally threatens to be destroyed by their mutual penchant for overacting.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) Although it’s not strictly a remake, this bizarre sequel to the surprise hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure takes a surprising number of cues from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Suffice it to say that the film’s portrayal of the Reaper is decidedly less grim than Bergman’s, but we imagine that the only reason why the Swedish filmmaker didn’t have his protagonist square off against death in a game of Battleship instead of chess is because it hadn’t reached his country yet.
Catch That Kid (2004) Launching Kristen Stewart’s now time-honored tradition of on-screen love triangles, this remake of the 2002 Danish film Catch That Girl (Klatretøsen) follows a teenage thief who enlists her love interests to participate in a bank heist where her mother works. Other than the whole amateur cat-burglar thing, the main difference between Stewart’s character here and Bella in the Twilight movies is that she actually does a few things for herself. If you want to see the young actress before she succumbed to constant, pouting, tousle-haired self-consciousness, this is the film for you.
Last House on the Left (1972) As hard as it is to believe that a film by Swedish luminary Ingmar Bergman could serve as inspiration for a low-budget exploitation film about a mother and father who take revenge on the kidnappers who raped and killed their daughter, writer-director Wes Craven did indeed borrow liberally from the premise of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring for his breakthrough film. Notwithstanding the difference in the acting styles of Max von Sydow and David Hess, Craven’s film is notable for its use of inappropriate slapstick to connect together its scenes of inappropriate brutality, as well as for the provocative tagline, “To avoid fainting, keep repeating ‘It's only a movie...It's only a movie.’” The truth is, it was actually two of them.
Pathfinder (2007) After the box office success of his remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, director Marcus Nispel chose more previously existing material for his follow-up, albeit from a source closer to home. Pathfinder’s Norwegian 1987 predecessor Veiviseren was also about an orphan who survives the massacre of his family, but Nispel’s film dispenses with social commentary in favor of highly-stylized action, and enlists Karl Urban to provide a little period authenticity from his previous work in the Lord of the Rings films. Their success is a direct testament to how familiar we still are with this movie.
Untitled Snabba Cash Remake (2012) Although this production is still in early stages of development, we feel comfortable including this in our list given the fact that it stars Zac Efron and is being produced by Chuck Roven (The Dark Knight), both of whom can get movies made no matter how good or bad they might be. Efron, who is currently best known for being gorgeous and likeable in movies like 17 Again and the High School Musical series is set to play a young man who becomes a drug runner (a sympathetic trade if ever there were one). The Swedish original was just released in January of this year, so it’s still a relatively unknown film, but we’re confident that any actor who could bring pathos to a story about a guy who has sex with ghosts will be more than able to make boring old stuff like drug running and criminal conspiracies interesting.
Ja, vi älskar våra skandinaviska filmer. Er, yes, we love our Scandi films. You? Add your 2 kroner below.